Carolina Environmental Diversity Explorations

Wetlands of the coastal plains · By Dirk Frankenberg

Pocosin Wetland

Figure 5. A pocosin wetland rises above the surrounding terrain. (Photograph by the author. More about the photograph)

Our next two stops on this wetland tour will complete our visits to upland sites. You should consider yourself blessed that you can visit pocosins and pond pine woodlands by virtual means because they both are characterized by thick vegetation, wet and slippery soil, and enough thorny vines and biting insects to make actual visits memorable, but not exactly pleasurable.

Figure 5 shows a view of a tall pocosin in Holly Shelter Gamelands. The word pocosin comes from a native American word meaning “swamp on a hill.” This term is appropriate for the most fully developed of these wetlands because those have developed organic rich soil layer on top of the original sand and actually rise above the surrounding topography. The same plants that grow on these self-elevated wetlands also occur in depressions and on the edges of longleaf pine savannas, and, as a result, they all are called pocosins. The community itself is essentially a seemingly impenetrable thicket. The characteristic plants are shrubs such as ti ti and fetterbush, but these are often bound together with spiny smilax vines. Not a great place to walk through.

Definitions

wetland n.
Land located between terrestrial (land-based) and aquatic environments that have saturated or nearly saturated soils most of the year; also called bogs, ponds, estuaries, and marshes. [more]
pocosin n.
An upland swamp (land that has saturated or nearly saturated soils most of the year) usually on higher ground or a hill located in the coastal plain of the southeastern United States.
impenetrable adj.
Impossible to penetrate, enter, or break into.
ti ti n.
An evergreen shrub or small tree of the southeast United States, having glossy leathery leaves, white to pinkish flowers clustered in racemes, and winged fruit.
fetterbush n.
An evergreen shrub of southeastern United States having small white bell-shaped flowers.
smilax n.
A slender, prickly vine.